The spectacular scenes of tsunami-caused surges pushing into the Tutukaka marina yesterday were not the biggest the area has seen, according to one long-time local.
Wave surges hit parts of the New Zealand coast early yesterday as thousands of people were evacuated from homes, schools and workplaces after fears of tsunami activity following an 8.1-magnitude earthquake in the Kermadec Islands.
Much of the North Island - including Northland, parts of the Bay of Plenty and the East Coast - were under a tsunami warning and entire towns, such as Ōpōtiki, were ordered to evacuate.
Dive! Tutukaka owner Jeroen Jongejans, who has lived in the area for more than 30 years, said yesterday's surges were similar to past instances, if not a bit smaller.
The busy Northland diving outfit had one boat out at the Poor Knights yesterday morning. For the dozen people on board, diving was cancelled but those who missed out would return today for another shot.
Jongejans said there was little concern for those on the water as he believed it was much safer to be at sea rather than close to shore.
Jongejans, who was based on shore, said crew rushed to tie down vessels as the marina was abandoned. However, he said the timing of the surges was fortunate.
"[The surges] have got ability to do some damage. We were lucky [yesterday] because all of these surges came in at high tide."
After the protocols put in place following Covid-19, Jongejans said getting crucial emergency information to people had become much easier.
"People are sort of used to addressing those issues when they come up and we've gotten a lot smarter with communicating those issues."
It was a nervous wait for waterfront McLeod Bay couple Lloyd and Ngaire Parker who, upon hearing of the tsumani warning, cast their minds back to 2011 when they endured a tsumani - which originated from an earthquake off the coast of Japan - on their 46-foot catamaran in Guam, about 2500km south of Tokyo.
"It brought it all that back," Lloyd said.
The Parkers, who had lived at their waterfront property for about four months, retreated to nearby cafe The Deck for most of the morning. Fortunately, little more than a few ripples were evident on the peaceful Whangārei Heads water.
Campervan travellers based on the water's edge at the Whangārei Cruising Club in Parua Bay were forced to seek higher ground as the alerts sounded.
Maureen Taylor, from Tauranga, had to leave her caravan behind before heading to the Parua Bay community centre, but she wasn't too concerned.
"Because it's in the harbour, a lot of people reassured us that it would be okay," she said.
Waikaraka resident Carol Pomfrett had just got out of the shower about 9am when she received multiple messages and alerts telling her to leave her property, which was about 150m from the shore.
"I was watching all the videos and I was thinking, 'I hope it doesn't come into the house," she said.
Seeking refuge at the Onerahi shops, Pomfrett said the wait reminded her of being tested for Covid-19.
"It was just like a repeat [of Covid], sitting in the car, waiting and waiting."